Ash's absence raises questions for Texas

AUSTIN, Texas -- Just when Texas’ quarterback issues seem close to being settled again, more bad news arrives.

David Ash will not play Thursday night against Iowa State and will not travel with the team to Ames. He’s still recovering from a concussion suffered during a Sept. 8 loss at BYU, and Case McCoy will make the start.

The details of what has transpired with Ash in the past three weeks are still a bit unclear, and he hasn’t spoken with reporters since the injury.

What we do know is that he was cleared to play against Kansas State, then pulled from the game at halftime due to concussion-related symptoms. Texas then had a bye week, and in the 10 days that have passed since the K-State game Ash's status remained day-to-day.

Some will jump to the conclusion that Ash could be out for a long, long time. That still seems unlikely. This may simply be an act of caution.

As much as every game has turned into a must-win for Texas, the continued absence of Ash is more important than who starts against Iowa State. Mack Brown has said team doctors are 100 percent in charge of the situation and that the quarterback won’t play until they give the OK.

Which, of course, means this all becomes quite an issue heading into Red River Rivalry week. When Texas takes the field against Oklahoma, Ash -- if he’s back -- will be getting his first game action in three full weeks. That’s not ideal.

But back to the present predicament. McCoy is making his second start of the season and has been solid since Ash went down, completing 63.2 percent of his passes for 330 yards and one score this season.

Against Kansas State, he attempted only nine passes in the second half but did guide two touchdown drives. You can bet that Johnathan Gray will be in for another significant workload Thursday after a career day against KSU.

The chances that Tyrone Swoopes will make his Longhorn debut Thursday also appear to be quite good. The true freshman saw more snaps during the bye week while Ash was out and has fully recovered from a hamstring injury that had slowed him since fall camp.

The plan for Swoopes is still vague, at least publicly. Texas would put him in the game if McCoy struggled. Or, if the senior has no trouble with ISU’s defense and builds a comfortable lead, it's possible that Swoopes could see his first action later in the game.

“We need to win the game. So you’ve got to see how the game is going,” Brown said Monday. “If you’re not moving it, you put him in. If you are moving it and scoring a bunch of points, you don’t put him in. You just do whatever you need to do to win the game.

“Major [Applewhite] and I are on the same page. We’re going to go in planning on him playing and just see where it fits as the game unfolds.”

Burning Swoopes’ redshirt would be a controversial move, one that makes lots of Texas fans happy and lots more unhappy. But Texas might not have a choice at this point. Playing Swoopes against Iowa State beats waiting until the Oklahoma game for his first career snaps.

At this point, it’s little more than speculation. Texas now knows Ash will stay home this week, and Thursday’s game could bring several more critical answers.